Over the last year or so I've been thinking about my business a lot, considering how it's structured and how it's evolved, and where I want to go with it. For a long time I've been unhappy with my work... it's not that I don't like the Hats, although whether or not I like the finished design isn't always a consideration for publication - I'm a process based sort who considers proportion and form more than overall aesthetic. It's more that they haven't challenged me in a long time. Or rather, I've not pushed myself creatively.
This is the problem with being the sole wage earner. All the time I have the responsibility to earn money, to keep us in food and make sure we can pay the bills and it's a heavy burden to bear, especially in a creative industry. This in turns forces me to be more productive and time efficient, which often means sticking with styles and shapes that I've done plenty of before, and that I know will be well received. And I've known for some time that this has been slowly and surely destroying my soul.
Now I'm finding myself in a place where I have to make a change or else (and let's not consider the alternative), and business wise, I reckon I'm established enough now to do it without risking income. A few times recently I've mentioned that I've been making changes to stuff in the background, changing how I work, so I can ease the pressure a little. That's sort of mostly done now, and the next step is to push my boundaries a little, experiment more with form, and explore avenues that have kindly sat there waiting for me with the doors open.
Today has seen me diving into some of my favourite inspiration - books and leaflets, ideas and styles from different times or places, to get those ideas flowing.
(don't mind me and the ever present Instagram filters; I'm sure the novelty will wear off soon)
I've a small collection of vintage Hat knitting patterns, and always keep an eye open when I can for more. I love the shapes in many of these, yet when looking through the instructions, there isn't evidence of a strong structure to them. I'm a bit of a structure purist so this does bother me, yet they're a great base for ideas.
This is a favourite book. Books covering the full history of Hats, in more of an encyclopedia style don't come up very often, so this one is a bit of a rarity, and believe me, it's treasured. It covers Hats from all periods for all places and is the most comprehensive of it's kind that I've found. All the Hats are depicted through illustrations, not photographs, with notes for each time period and place, and with additional details on who would have worn them etc. This book fires me up more than anything.
Many of the classic or historic millinery styles don't lend themselves to knitting very well, unless they're felted, which, as much as I love it, is a little imprecise for me, or are prepared to add all the trimmings, which I find simply too fussy. Yet there's still room for me to use changes in gauge to stiffen fabrics for more upright Hats, for example.
Here's the thing - I'm a 3D person. I've always made sculptures from fabrics and soft materials. And whenever I veer away from that, I get a little lost. As much as I love playing with stitch patterns and surface texture, that's not what drives me. It doesn't matter how simple or complex the stitch, it's the structure that counts. How that shape is formed is my life blood, and how that translates into knitting is my output. I'd like to stay with Hats, they suit my every whim so perfectly - small and portable, ideal for travelling, and quick enough to appease my short attention span. They really are wearable sculptures, even in the tamest of styles, through which I can explore technique and structure. And honestly, I've had moments where I've wanted to abandon this industry all together - I'm trying to avoid that.
Classic Woolly Toppers is one step in a different direction, a baby step if you like (oh yes, there are plans for some seriously out there sculptural Hats, a book of) and the Hats themselves are nearly all done, and I'm liking it so far. Considering that at this moment in time I can't see anything I've done in a positive light (this is pretty normal; we'll blame the black dog for that one) this is one small thing for me to hold onto. The changes in progress may not be so evident on the surface, yet they're being felt strongly back here. It's all encouragement to move forward, slowly.